Thursday, 4 July 2019
Questions without Notice
Commonwealth Integrity Commission
My question is to the Attorney-General. A March 2019 poll by The Australia Institute found that 80 per cent of Australians support the establishment of a federal integrity commission to prevent, investigate and expose corruption. Sixty-seven per cent polled said that they held low to very low trust in politicians in our federal parliament. When will the government introduce legislation to create an integrity commission with real powers to reduce corruption and, hopefully, restore public trust in us in this chamber?
I thank the member for Mayo for her question. I'm glad that I walked up and asked her who her second Independent question was to. When she said it was to me, that was very useful. The exact date is going to depend on the stakeholder consultation that will happen between now and December.
Mr Albanese interjecting—
Yes, indeed. It's always good to get a tip-off though. It is the case that those surveys have been published and they do indicate that this is an area that requires significant work. It's also the case that we must remember that Australia is consistently ranked by Transparency International as one of the least corrupt countries in the world. We are absolutely committed to a Commonwealth Integrity Commission. You will, of course, recall that on 13 December 2018 the Prime Minister and I announced the establishment of a Commonwealth Integrity Commission. We released a very detailed public consultation paper with respect to the model that we've put forward. The model is one in two parts. The law enforcement integrity division will have the same functions and powers as the current Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity but with broader jurisdiction. The second and entirely new part of the organisation will be the public sector integrity division. That will investigate alleged criminal corruption involving the remainder of the public sector, including departments and their staff, parliamentarians and their staff, the staff of federal judicial officers and, in appropriate circumstances, recipients of Commonwealth funds. It will have a very broad jurisdiction.
It, of course, would not escape the member's notice that, in the last budget, the forward estimates now show $145.2 million committed to this body. That is $104.5 million of new funding and includes the existing ACLEI budget of $40.7 million. I note, in evidence of the commitment of the government to this organisation, that that is funding well in excess of what members opposite had budgeted for their variant model of this body.
During the consultation process that has happened so far we've had 78 submissions. They were with respect to that very detailed draft discussion paper that we had out. The next part of this phase will be to take basic drafting out and consult with a range of stakeholders and then, of course, cabinet, but we're totally committed to this. This is something that absolutely has to be got right. It is detailed. The price of getting it wrong is to decrease public confidence in all of us and our civil service, and we will not let that happen.
Honourable members interjecting—
No, it is the Leader of the Opposition's call. The call went to the government and the government—
Honourable members interjecting—
I just say to the House that, if arrangements have been made, I am not aware of them and am not party to them. This practice began in the last couple of weeks of the last parliament.
Given I'm going to rule on it, I think what you say is irrelevant, I've got to say. The call alternates. The arrangement that happens with the Independents early in question time is something that has been settled between the sides. It was the government's call last time, and the only person that jumped was the Independent. I'm not comfortable with an arrangement where the alternation of the call is manipulated. I'm not. If a formal arrangement wants to be made, that'll need to be made, but the government is not going to prevent the opposition getting a question by not jumping, having an Independent and then seeking the call. The call alternates, and either side knows that.